By B Izzak
KUWAIT: The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously approved a draft law requiring the government to pay a KD 3,000 grant to all retired Kuwaitis, in a session boycotted by several opposition MPs. All thirty-eight MPs and ministers present during the emergency session voted for the bill that obliges the state-owned Public Institution for Social Security, the agency that looks after pensioners, to pay close to KD 600 million, according to the finance minister.
Finance Minister Abdulwahab Al-Rasheed told the Assembly that payment of the handout will commence immediately after the law becomes effective. The law was co-sponsored by a majority of MPs and the government, so the government is highly expected to sign the law. The draft law also stipulates that at least KD 500 million will be withdrawn from the state budget in favor of the pension agency to help cover what is known as actuarial deficit.
The finance minister said that experts have calculated the actuarial deficit of the agency, its future anticipated shortfall, at KD 24 billion, adding that the government already paid KD 10.9 billion to the body between 2009 and 2016 to cover part of the deficit. But head of the Assembly’s budgets committee MP Adnan Abdulsamad said the minister’s estimates are highly exaggerated, and that the more realistic actuarial deficit is only KD 2 billion based on calculations by the Audit Bureau. The lawmaker called for seeking the opinion of other experts on how to calculate the deficit.
Before approving the bill, the Assembly amended the bill to make the huge transfers under the supervision of the Audit Bureau, the country’s accounting watchdog. Around 12 opposition MPs boycotted the session, saying the move violates the constitution, although they declared their support for the retired people.
The lawmakers then declared an open and indefinite sit-in at the National Assembly to protest what they called “obstructing the application” of the constitution and preventing regular Assembly meetings. The lawmakers have decided to sleep in their offices in the Assembly building. Around 17 opposition MPs joined the protest.